Inspirational Woman: Birgit Neu | MD, neuchange

birgitNeuBirgit Neu is MD of culture change consultancy neuchange. She was previously Head of Private Banking Initiative, Global CMB at HSBC, and also held COO roles within Corporate Communications & Marketing and Corporate Development in HSBC’s Global Banking and Markets business. Named one of The International Alliance for Women’s World of Difference Top 100 for 2012, European Diversity Awards Inspirational Role Model in 2012, and Women of the Future’s Mentor of the Year in 2009, Birgit was involved in diversity efforts at HSBC as co-chair of its ‘Balance’ employee network, leadership committee member for Out on the Street Europe (an LGBT initiative for senior bankers) and was a founding member of Women on the Wharf, a network of corporate women’s networks which includes fourteen top firms in London’s Canary Wharf.. She is now leveraging her diversity and culture experience through her consultancy practice.

In addition to six years at HSBC, her financial services experience includes communications roles with Atos Euronext Market Solutions in London and management office positions with Instinet in London and New York, as well as working on their International Equities desk in New York. She has a BS in Marketing and International Business from New York University and participated in the Women’s Leadership Forum at Harvard University. Birgit sits on the board of legal charity Advocates for International Development and is a UK director for the Center for Talent Innovation, a NY-based think tank.

How did you end up in the world of Banking & Finance?

I fell into it in 2000 – prior to that I’d had a number of dot-com roles that were very technology-oriented, and when I was looking to move into something else a headhunter suggested that it was worth looking at the financial sector as well as some of the more traditionally creative sectors based on the kind of experience I had. I am very grateful to that headhunter because she really helped me to see what kinds of transferable skills I had and how I could sell them in.

Women on the Wharf is a network of corporate women’s networks founded by a group of individuals involved with the gender diversity initiatives of fourteen major firms in the Wharf.

What is Women on the Wharf and why did you set it up?

Women on the Wharf is a network of corporate women’s networks founded by a group of individuals involved with the gender diversity initiatives in major firms in London’s Canary Wharf. We set it up as a way to connect women to share experiences and ideas, enabling them to increase their impact in the work place. It’s also a fantastic forum to share best practice between the networks in the member companies so those networks can get a better understanding of how to be most effective for their members.

Within HSBC I helped launch and subsequently co-chaired an award-winning employee network called Balance. We took a slightly different approach with that network, and rather than focusing on women we wanted to focus on improving gender balance at all levels of the business with men very much designed into the process from the start. About 40% of the membership is male which was a really interesting result. There were a lot of discussions around how and where the common themes for most gender-focused networks, e.g. development, leadership, and networking, tend to work differently or similarly for men and women, and we felt it was critical to raise awareness of what that looks like for both sides to both sides in order to unlock some of the challenges we faced around improving gender diversity.

Why did you move out of Banking & Finance and what are you doing now?

I always had aspirations to do something entrepreneurial at some point – I knew I had a few business ideas up my sleeve and access to successful entrepreneurs in the City to get advice from, and I thought it would be rewarding to have a business to call my own. It has been an awesome learning experience to set up my own business. There are also less exciting moments when you realise that you’ve no longer got the IT helpdesk and office supply cupboards and facilities that come with working in the big corporate office towers!

The gender diversity agenda feels like it’s continuing to gain momentum, and it has been gratifying to now start working across more firms and support them on how they take action on that topic. I am keen to keep the pressure on and be involved in supporting talented women and men globally so we get the best out of each other and drive more economic growth.

..the gender diversity agenda feels like it’s continuing to gain momentum…I am keen to keep the pressure on and be involved in supporting talented women and men globally so we get the best out of each other and drive more economic growth.

What’s next for Birgit Neu?

When I was in high school in the US I attended the Pennsylvania Governor’s School for the Arts as a Creative Writing major, I still have at least one novel in me which I need to get around to finishing one day. I also have dozens of places around the world I’d love to have the time to visit with my son. During my travels I would feel a great sense of accomplishment if I could finally get my Competent Crew certification so I can be a better sailor!

What tips or advice can you share with WeAreTheCity members?

It’s been said a million times before, but every day it is proven true for me that getting things done is so much about who you know. Finding people who can help you explore your personal objectives and career objectives and maintaining those relationships should be the top priority for anyone who doesn’t want to stand still.

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